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Judas hung in effigy, Mexico City, early 20th century

The burning of Judas is an Easter-time ritual in many Orthodox and Catholic Christian communities, where an effigy of Judas Iscariot is burned. Other related mistreatment of Judas effigies include hanging, flogging, and exploding with fireworks.[1][2] Anthropologists generalize these type of activities as "scapegoating rituals". A similar ritual would be the hanging in effigy of Haman and his ten sons during Purim.

Though not an official part of the Easter liturgical cycle, the custom is typically a part of the reenactment of the story of the Passion that is practiced by the faithful during Easter. Customs vary, but the effigy of Judas is typically hanged (reenacting Matthew 27:5) on Good Friday, then burned on the night of Easter Sunday.

In many parts of Latin America this practice occurs on the eve of the new year as a symbol of ridding one's self of evil and beginning a new year in spiritual purity. Some communities observe this ritual using various effigies, including the biblical Judas (who betrayed Jesus), Satan, a harlot, or a Jew[citation needed] (represented by the stereotypical European depiction of a Jewish male with a goat beard, side locks, and a black frock coat). This custom, during which the effigy is burned on a stake, is invariably called "Quema del Año Viejo"[3] meaning literally "the burning of the old year."


Burning of Judas in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, 1909
Creating a Judas figure in form of a devil at a workshop at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City.

The burning of Judas was once widely practiced across Europe, and is still practiced in parts of Greece,[4] Mexico,[5] Brazil,[6] Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cyprus where it is called 'lambratzia',[7] the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Judas burnings also took place in the district of Dingle, in Liverpool, England, in the early 20th Century,[8] until it was banned by the authorities. The burning of Judas is not traditional to England, although a very similar custom of burning Catholic rebel Guy Fawkes in effigy exists.

Allegations of antisemitism[edit]

The practice was once cited in the United States State Department's Religious Freedom Report for Greece.[9] The report incorrectly referred to the custom as the "burning of the Jew", whereas in Greece the term always used is "burning of Judas". In response, Archbishop Christodoulos, then head of the Greek Orthodox Church, denied such allegations, stating that this practice refers to the image of "Judas the traitor" and not Jews in general.[10]

In Latin America, despite the controversial nature of anti-Semitism associated with the "burning of the Jew" (one of the custom's many monikers), although the practice does exist in the above stated form it is not regarded as an act of hostility towards the Jewish nation or ethnicity but is simply representative of "evil", thus not differing in any way from the other effigies listed.[11]


  1. ^ Hanging Judas in Mexico
  2. ^ F.F.T. (1902-02-09). "Lenten Days In Mexico. - Curious Customs To Be Seen This Week In The Land Of Montezuma. - Article - Nytimes.Com". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  3. ^ es:Año viejo
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ http://zedilloworld.presidencia.gob.mx/PAGES/culture/note_semanasanta.html
  6. ^ Novo Milênio: Histórias e Lendas de Santos: Malhação do Judas. Quem lembra?
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ BBC - Liverpool - Local History - Judas Burning
  9. ^ In April 2006, the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece continued to protest the Easter tradition of the burning of a life-size effigy of Judas, sometimes referred to as the "burning of the Jew," which they maintained propagated hatred and fanaticism against Jews. One Greek Orthodox bishop, a local NGO, and the Wiesenthal Center wrote formal objections to this tradition.
  10. ^ ekathimerini.com | Greece is not racist, says irked archbishop
  11. ^ [3][dead link]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Judas — Please support Wikipedia.
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5 news items

Tico Times
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:27:48 -0700

On Saturday, the night before Easter, Costa Rica marks the traditional “Burning of Judas,” where Catholics set flame to effigies of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus and led to his crucifixion. Though rooted in religious lore, the ...
Dubbo Photo News | Dubbo Weekender
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:52:48 -0700

At 11pm, a large crowd walked to the Greek Orthodox Church where there was a service and the 'burning of Judas of Iscariot'. A figure is made (not unlike a scare crow) hung on a branch and burned at midnight. I didn't like that ceremony very much and ...

InCyprus (blog)

InCyprus (blog)
Mon, 14 Apr 2014 21:30:00 -0700

The burning of the bonfires is meant to symbolise 'the burning of Judas' where an effigy of Judas Iscariot is torched. But overzealous followers of the tradition have been known to split into neighbourhood gangs – consisting mostly of pre-teens and ...

InSerbia News

InSerbia News
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 01:15:00 -0700

The group has called for a mass demonstration on Easter Sunday with the traditional “burning of Judas,” a very traditional activity on Easter in Venezuela and elsewhere across Latin America wherein an effigy of Judas is burned, hanged, beaten and ...
Cyprus Mail
Mon, 07 Apr 2014 02:59:10 -0700

The traditional bonfire on Easter Saturday centres on the burning of Judas effigies. In recent years the custom has been getting out of control in terms of the theft of wood and any other items that can be burned on a bonfire. Easter Sunday falls on ...

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